Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
Our Friend is Here: Latinx Heritage MonthEditionis a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where between September 15th and October 15th, Latinx authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being Latinx and Latinx books. Find the introduction post for Latinx Heritage Month at The Quiet Pond here.
When Amparo announced that she was going to be publishing her debut book back in October 2019 – and I cannot believe so much time has passed! – you can imagine how elated and excited I was. I mean: (1) ‘How to Train Your Dragon meets Qudditch’, (2) Puerto Rican main character who represents Puerto Rico in a world competition, and (3) a story that blends contemporary and fantasy? I think we can all agree that Blazewrath Games sounds amazing.
I was so happy when Amparo said ‘yes’ to being interviewed at the Pond! I’m so happy to have her here today, visiting us at the Pond as a regal pink dragon. I had a lot of fun coming up with questions for Amparo – I’m really intrigued by the idea of Blazewrath Games and am so curious to see how the story will play out – so I hope you all enjoy the author interview we did together!
But, just in case you are only learning about Blazewrath Games for the first time, I want to take the opportunity and pleasure of formally introducing you to Amparo’s debut! Buckle your seatbelts, friends! Because you will be adding this to your to-read list super fast after you read more!
Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz
Lana Torres has always preferred dragons to people. In a few weeks, sixteen countries will compete in the Blazewrath World Cup, a tournament where dragons and their riders fight for glory in a dangerous relay. Lana longs to represent her native Puerto Rico in their first ever World Cup appearance, and when Puerto Rico’s Runner—the only player without a dragon steed—is kicked off the team, she’s given the chance.
But when she discovers that a former Blazewrath superstar has teamed up with the Sire—a legendary dragon who’s cursed into human form—the safety of the Cup is jeopardized. The pair are burning down dragon sanctuaries around the world and refuse to stop unless the Cup gets cancelled. All Lana wanted was to represent her country. Now, to do that, she’ll have to navigate an international conspiracy that’s deadlier than her beloved sport.
With such a cool cover and even cooler blurb, I’m pretty sure that you’re just as excited as I am now. I’m so looking forward to this book when it releases in just two days on October 6th! (It’s almost here!) If you want to learn a little bit more about Blazewrath Games, you’ll definitely want to read the interview I did with Amparo and her wonderful answers!
Author Interview: Amparo Ortiz
CW: Hi Amparo! A huge welcome to The Quiet Pond! Thank you so much for visiting us; we’re so happy to have you here today. For our friends out there who might only be meeting you for the first time, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Amparo: HELLO. After years of reading your blog, I’m freaking out that I’m FINALLY debuting and getting the chance to be featured on it! *flails* Okay, so a little about myself: I’m a Puerto Rican author who also teaches ESL in college and is very behind on her Korean lessons. Bonus fact: I’m a Capricorn Sun and Libra Moon, in case you were wondering!
CW: A huge belated congratulations on your debut, Blazewrath Games! I absolutely cannot wait to read it; Blazewrath Games sounds so exciting, unique, and I’m really intrigued with your take on dragons! Can you tell us a little bit about the Blazewrath Games?
Amparo: Thank you so much! Blazewrath Games is basically the World Cup with dragons! It features a Puerto Rican girl who’s desperate to get on her country’s team and represent the island she was forced to leave behind as a kid. It’s about redefining yourself from a cultural perspective, but also about asking yourself: once my dreams come true, are they still dreamy? Do I still want them?
CW: I’m really excited to dive into the alternate fantasy-contemporary world that you have created, and I’m particularly excited to see how dragons exist among humans and work together in the Blazewrath World Cup! What was the inspiration behind bringing dragons and sports together?
Amparo: Soccer, actually! I spent most of 2013 trying to find the right story to write about dragons. I knew I wanted to create a sport with them, but all I could come up with was jousting, which I quickly fell out of love with, lol. Cut to 2014. I’m watching the FIFA World Cup and I keep thinking about dragons–how would something similar to soccer look like with dragon riders? Then I realized I wanted a protagonist who didn’t ride dragons. Figuring out her role took more time, but once I knew she was a runner who sucked at fighting, everything fell into place! I needed her to get a specific object–the Iron Scale–to the top of a mountain while dodging dragonfire and rival players who were martial artists! So the sport is basically divided into two sections: the riders and their steeds on the field, and once someone scores, that team’s Runner gets to dash up the mountain (and possibly meet their doom!).
CW: Something that struck me when reading the synopsis for Blazewrath Games is that your main character is representing Puerto Rico in the Blazewrath World Cup – and it really hit me that we do not often see main characters of a story that represent a country other than America or the United Kingdom! What does it mean to you to write a Puerto Rican character who represents Puerto Rico?
Amparo: Ugh, everything. This is the book I wanted to read as a kid finding out who she was in the great big world, you know? My first book had a white boy protagonist. Once I realized I could write stories I actually related to, stories that reflected my reality despite its fantastical elements, I knew I was never going back.
CW: I can’t wait to meet Lana Torres – she sounds so awesome and I can’t wait to embark on her journey with her! How did your Latinx identity and experiences influence and shape Lana’s character?
Amparo: A little and a lot. I’m not a member of the Diaspora like she is (I’ve always been in PR), but I could relate to the disconnect between her and what it means to be Puerto Rican. She’s an outsider from the literal Outside, but I sometimes feel alienated while on the Inside, as well. However, she’s clinging to the idea that being on Team Puerto Rico will automatically validate her as Puerto Rican. Wearing a uniform with her country’s name on it is her ticket toward a stronger bond with her homeland. Once I figured this out, writing her journey was so much more personal, and I could use my own confusion, loneliness, joy, and pride to inform her experience.
CW: Given how unique and fresh the story sounds, and I cannot help but feel like this is the book of your dreams! What was the most fun thing to write about when you wrote Blazewrath Games?
Amparo: You’d think it would be the Blazewrath matches, but it was actually the world-building bits! Whether it was the history and lore-heavy epigraphs at the start of each chapter, exploring the different Wand levels within the magical community, or setting each dragon species apart (and diving deep into their abilities!), I loved it so so much.
CW: In your announcement tweet, you mentioned that you wrote this book during Hurricane María, which was such a devastating event and yet you pushed forward. How did living through Hurricane María influence the Blazewrath Games and its story?
Amparo: Both Hurricanes Irma and Maria made the process of finishing Blazewrath Games even more of a victory for me. I was only without water for two weeks, and without power for a month and a half, but that experience made me realize how much writing contributed to my mental health and what being successful meant. To me, “making it” was getting a book deal. After the hurricanes, “making it” changed to surviving. To waking up every morning with the hope that I could one day even want to write again. Once I was in the fortunate position to do so, I raced through what was left to write of that first draft. The book I spent January to September in 2017 struggling to write just burst out of me in November once I had power back. The story didn’t change at all during drafting, but I changed. “Making it” now meant putting my dreams onto the page just so I could tell myself I finished something after not knowing whether I could do so ever again. Knowing this book will hit shelves after so much doubt and self-esteem lows is blowing my mind in the best way.
CW: Thank you so much for visiting us at the Pond today, Amparo! Last question, and it’s a question that I love to ask all of our visitors. What is a food that reminds you of home – wherever or whoever that may be?
Amparo: Mofongo! I seriously cannot live without mofongo. Also, see: bacalaitos and alcapurrias. These are not only my absolute favorites because they’re delicious, they remind me of growing up next to a coastal town with seafood and fried food restaurants galore. It’s my happiest happy place. *drools*
About the Author
Amparo Ortiz was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and currently lives on the island’s northeastern coast. Her short story comic, “What Remains in The Dark,” appears in the Eisner Award-winning anthology PUERTO RICO STRONG (Lion Forge, 2018), and SAVING CHUPIE, her middle grade graphic novel, comes out with HarperCollins in Winter 2022. She holds an M.A. in English and a B.A. in Psychology from the UPR’s Río Piedras campus. When she’s not teaching ESL to her college students, she’s teaching herself Korean, devouring as much young adult fiction as she can, and writing about Latinx characters in worlds both contemporary and fantastical. Her debut novel, BLAZEWRATH GAMES, hits shelves on October 6, 2020 from Page Street Kids.